Recently I decided to go back through an old external hard drive and look through some of my old photographs, dating back to when I got my Canon T2i in January of 2012, and some photos even before that.
Taken in Shenandoah not too long after I got my Canon T2i. I remember being so happy with this shot. Much later when I saw that one of my favorite photographers had photographed the same scene (better), I was thrilled.
At first, I was actually taken a back with my photos. I was impressed to a degree. Not that they were all necessarily good, but it was easily recognizable what I was going for in some, and while some things didn't 'work' I think I got close sometimes.
I think what was most exciting, other than the memories, is seeing that I was trying a lot of things.
Creepy but creative self portrait (actually this may have been a friend's idea and they might have helped, I don't remember), an attempt at 'light painting', a technique where you use a long shutter in a dark situation and use a flashlight or something to 'paint in' the light where you want it. By doing that, I was able to capture myself twice in the same frame.
Well, I would say, I think yes, but certainly not to dwell there. I would also say it depends upon what we're looking back at.
I do feel it is important to recognize one area in which I do believe we should look back. Especially in the Psalms, we see that throughout Scripture people looked back at the wondrous works of God. His sovereignty over situations in our lives, and the salvation He offers us in His Son should bring us to a place of worship and praise for the great and mighty things He has done!
I think there's a couple of other areas in which we might look back.
If you're anything like me you have a load of regrets. It could be just a bad decision like letting 'the one' go that you thought would be the love of your life. It could be a job you took that might not of been the best. Maybe it was a fashion faux pas. (See: the 70's, 80's, 90's... ok well those are in every decade...)
I wouldn't say that those are necessarily sins, I'm not gonna make a law where there is none. But they still might leave some regret. Like me wearing sweat pants a LOT in public as a kid. Just kidding.... About the regret part.
Taken on a mission trip to Dominican Republic in 2013
But then there is the regret of sin. The mistakes that left real damage. The things that were against God first of all, but also against our own bodies or against others.
Maybe it's the marriage that was destroyed by broken vows or the lustful thoughts and actions in ones youth (or adulthood). Maybe it was a theft, a violent act, or even something that we might say isn't as big a deal like lying or dishonoring our parents.
Let's not underplay it, sin is bad (Romans 6:23). Even the silent unknown secret sins of our intentions and minds are deserving of eternal judgment by a Holy God Who's ways are perfect. So to regret these things is right and proper.
But there's two ways that we can look back at these sins.
"For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death."
2 Corinthians 7:10
There is the worldly fleshly regret that simply is sorry it got caught or sorry for the consequences. But there is the sorrow leading to repentance, and that is where we want to be found. We can find comfort for this in 1 John 1:9:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
For the believer, we see that we, sinners saved by grace, are forgiven in Christ, and when we slip up we need only come to Him, not to regain salvation for it is not lost, but to cleanse us so that our fellowship with God is restored.
For the unbeliever, see this verse as a call to action. God extends grace and mercy so freely, confess to Him and submit to the Lordship of Christ in your life. You'll experience that forgiveness!
We believers also can know that through the sins and mistakes (not that it makes them ok), God is working and for a glorious end.
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;"
You could say a photographer is only as good as their next photograph, and so it somewhat similarly is with the believers walk. In Christ our salvation is secure, there's no need to fear losing that. Yet our sanctification requires us to come alongside the process, empowered by the Holy Spirit, knowing that it is God Who will bring us to the goal to which we ought to aspire: being conformed to the image of His Son.
So spending too much time looking back at our past accomplishments can cause us to rest on our laurels thinking we've 'arrived'. Spending too much time in regret over sin and mistakes causes us to become unfruitful and unproductive, possibly even resulting in self-pity.
So as I close with this entry, to answer our question. Yes I do think we should look back to recognize the awesome work of God. And yes, I believe we can look back at our mistakes to learn from them, confess them to our loving Father, but as Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14:
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Will I continue to grow as a photographer? I sure hope so, but that, as well as more importantly my walk with Christ, requires me to learn from my past, from others, and most importantly to try to be faithful to my Savior, straining to become more and more like Him, and trusting in my Father to bring about that wonderful result of sanctification: to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
by: Jeremey Voit
Jeremey is a photographer based in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. He loves travel, nature, and experiencing and sharing the beauty of God's creation.